08 FRIDAY 4 JULY 2014
I Got The Sun In The Morning – Ethel Merman
People! Turn down the volume on your iPods; Ethel Merman has arrived at the list. Oh! Don’t act surprised, you knew La Merman would be on the list, how could she not? Yes, there’ll be more belters joining her.
For almost 25 years I Got The Sun In The Morning has been one of my all-time favourites. It is kind of poetic that it comes on the list on the 4th of July. You see, that is the day I left Venezuela in 1990, exactly a week after my 25th birthday.
At the end of the summer, I arrived in Washington, D.C. I had been accepted in the Film and Video Master’s program at AU (American University.)
The previous weeks had been a blast. I had gone to SUNY Buffalo (State University of New York) for a short course to brush up my English and prepare me for postgraduate studies in the US.
This summer was the first I had spent on my own in the United States, and naturally, I did as I pleased; it was such a liberating experience. There was always something going on every night. I usually would go to bed after midnight, wake up early, and go to the North Campus for classes. I’d come back to the dorm in the afternoon, nap and do homework after five. Then off to find whatever parties and happenings were going on at Clements Hall, or anywhere nearby the South Campus. There were almost no limits. As my mother would say I was ‘sin ley, sin Dios, y sin Santa Maria’ (without law, God, and Saint Mary).
But everything changed when I arrived in D.C.
My first memory of Washington is that of me sitting on a bench and sobbing at AU’s Quad. I didn’t know at the time why I cried, I still don’t know. I can only guess I felt alone; I missed my family and new friends from Buffalo. That afternoon the blues arrived and stayed with me for five or six weeks. That was the start of my occasional struggle with blue periods and non-specific anxiety.
Due to a clerical error, the money from my scholarship would not arrive for another four weeks. After paying my first month of rent, plus deposit, I was left with very little money, so, I had to live frugally for a few weeks.
Back in 1990 there used to be a The Whiz record store across from the Tenleytown Metro. A Sears store was also across from the station, on the Wisconsin Avenue side. When I took the AU shuttle to the Tenleytown station, I’d often stop at the Whiz, to check their CDs. I would make a mental wish list of all the CDs I was going to buy when I got my allowance.
One Friday morning after class I stopped by my Bank branch on campus to check my balance, and there it was, the $1680.00 three-month allowance I was expecting.
I took the shuttle to Tenleytown and went into the Whiz to get the CDs from my wish list. I crossed the street and went to Sears and bought a boom box. I went back to my basement apartment on MacArthur Blvd, connected the boom box and started to hear the CDs I had bought. Among them, there was a compilation CD by various singers celebrating Irving Berlin’s 100th Birthday. I Got The Sun In The Morning was among the tracks.
It was the first time I had heard it. The song uplifted me and helped me come out of my period of blues. Although I was alone, and money was going to be scarce while I attended my master’s program, I realised that there might be still many good things around me. I just had to learn to appreciate them, or at the very least, acknowledge them as an important part of the experiences I was going through.
Of all the CDs I bought that day that is the only one I don’t own anymore, I must have sold it at a yard sale. When I moved to New Zealand in 03, I felt I needed to dust off the song and make it my mantra again. I went onto Amazon looking for it, but all I could find was the Annie Get Your Gun CD. The version that I originally heard, I believe, was from 1966, which is the link I’ve included below.
Links: I Got The Sun In The Morning
Song Title: I Got The Sun In The Morning – 1946 Genre: Musical Artist: Ethel Merman Composer: Irving Berlin Lyricist: Irving Berlin Album: Annie Get Your Gun (Original Cast Recording) [1988 Remaster]
Favourite Lyrics: Got no checkbooks, got no banks, / Still, I’d like to express my thanks. / I’ve got the sun in the morning / And the moon at night.
Runners Up: An Old Fashion Wedding • Candy • Why Not! (Manhattan Carnival)
09 SATURDAY 5 JULY 2014
Anything Goes – Sutton Foster
Hands down, this is one of the catchiest tunes I’ve ever heard.
Introduced by Ethel Merman, this title song of Cole Porter’s 1934 “Anything Goes” has been a standard for years. Recorded by many artists, I would say it is one of the most-popular songs by Cole Porter, even if people don’t know the name, I’m sure they would recognise the tune.
The first time I heard Anything Goes was in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”. Surely you remember the future Mrs Spielberg belting the lyrics in Mandarin. Throughout the years, I became familiar with many versions (Patti Lupone, anyone?). However, this version made it to the list because of Sutton Foster; the woman can do no wrong. I had a chance to see her perform as Reno Sweeny on the 2011 Broadway revival, and it was quite a treat. Not only she is a beautiful and talented comedic actress, but also she’s a good belter. Her dancing is so vigorous, and yet so effortless and elegant that once you see her, you realise you may not be able to see another performer like her in your lifetime.
Links: Anything Goes – 65th Annual Tony Awards
Song Title: Anything Goes – 1934 Genre: Musical Artist: Sutton Foster Composer: Cole Porter Lyricist: Cole Porter Album: Anything Goes (New Broadway Cast Recording)
Favourite Lyrics: And though I’m not a great romancer / I know that I’m bound to answer / When you propose, / Anything goes.
Runners Up: Boy From New York City (LP Version) • You’re the top • It’s De-Lovely
10 SUNDAY 6 JULY 2014
Varsity Drag Mambo – Cesar Concepción
If you asked me which my favourite songs of all time are, The Varsity Drag would be among the top 5. Weird, I know, considering that there were other traditional standards to come out of the 1927 Broadway musical Good News, in particular, Life Is Just a Bowl Cherries.
The Drag in the song title means dance, it is not “drag” as some may know it now. I guess it came about as a natural evolution of the slow drag from the ragtime era, but I may be mistaken. Among the different versions of The Varsity Drag in my library, I love this mambo interpretation. It’s the only one that makes go down on my heels and up on my toes, which is a problem if I’m running on the treadmill at the gym.
I swear there have been many instances where I’ve unconsciously started to sway my heaps away whenever the song has come on my ear pods. Not long ago I used to stop and look around to see if anybody had noticed. These days I just go for it. It makes me feel alive.
I expect other versions of The Varsity Drag to make it to the list.
Song Title: Varsity Drag Mambo – 1927 Genre: Musical Artist: Cesar Concepción Composer: Ray Henderson Lyricists: B.G. DeSylva & Lew Brown Album: Arriba el Mambo
Runner Up: Just One of Those Things
11 MONDAY 7 JULY 2014
The Glory Of Love – Jimmy Durante
Those of you out there who are fans of The Simpsons may recall an episode in the 1990s where Grandpa sits under a tree’s shade and starts to tell a story. Milhous turns and says something like: “Hey! Pay attention an old man is telling stories under a tree.” That was the same reaction I had the first time I heard Jimmy Durante singing (was he ever a young man?) I stopped doing whatever I was doing and listened to his singing.
After the film Sleepless in Seattle introduced Jimmy Durante to new generations I bought his Best of CD. However, it was The Glory of Love, rather than Make Someone Happy, the song I fell in love with.
The year was 1993, and after graduating the year before and landing a good job at a big organisation as a photographer and videographer, I was ready to move on with my life. The next logical step, I thought, was finding love. Okay, go ahead, roll your eyes; I’ll wait a beat.
Come on, I was 28 and making money, what else was I supposed to think of or do? … What was that you just said? … Investing? … On the world wide what? America On Where? … I know, I know. While the rest of my generation was investing in that “Internet thing” I was thinking of love, but let’s not bring that back, no point in crying over spilt kilobits.
It is not as if I was desperate or even gave it much thought to be in a relationship, but I felt it was the next logical step in life. However, I wasn’t so sure what love was all about; after all, I had never been in love. Nevertheless, there was a lot of wisdom in this version of The Glory of Love by Jimmy Durante. The simplicity of the lyrics made a lot of sense; win a little, lose a little, have the blues a little. Having a concept of love reduced to that minimal expression did the trick. From then on I knew what to expect from love, moments of joy, followed by necessary losses and sadness.
I wish I hadn’t taken it so literally, though.
Song Title: The Glory Of Love – 1936 Genre: Pop Artist: Jimmy Durante Composer: Billy Hill Lyricist: Billy Hill Album: As Time Goes By – The Best Of Jimmy Durante
Favourite Lyrics: You’ve got to win a little, lose a little / And always have the blues a little / That’s the story of, that’s the glory of love
Runners Up: Make Someone Happy • Over The Rainbow • August Rhapsody
12 TUESDAY 8 JULY 2014
That’s Entertainment – Fred Astaire, Jack Buchanan, Nanette Fabray, Oscar Levant
Originally written for the 1953 film “The Band Wagon,” That’s Entertainment is one of those tunes that has become a standard when it comes to celebrating films, theatre, and show business in general. I’m not sure if that’s still the case, though. I often hear it as incidental music at the Oscars, but I haven’t heard it featured in any show in a long time.
It was used as the title song for “That’s Entertainment! I, II and III.” The documentary series featuring the best of MGM’s musicals from their golden era. “The Band Wagon” soundtrack was one of the CDs I bought on the day I got my first allowance check in 1990. So, I guess I chose it out of nostalgia more than anything else.
Song Title: That’s Entertainment – 1952 Genre: Soundtrack Artists: Fred Astaire, Jack Buchanan, Nanette Fabray & Oscar Levant Composer: Arthur Schwartz Lyrics: Howard Dietz Album: The Band Wagon
Favourite Lyrics: The world is a stage, / The stage is a world of entertainment.
Runners Up: Prelude and Theme • Cuban Pete • Some Other Time • Noche de Chicago • A Shine on Your Shoes • I Love Louisa • I Guess I’ll Have to Change my Plans • Triplets
13 WEDNESDAY 9 JULY 2014
Be Our Guest – Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach
I grew up during what many people consider Disney’s animated films draught. Okay, it may just be me who thinks so. However, not great classics were produced in the 1960s, 70s, and most of the 80s. So, all the Disney songs (in Spanish, of course), I heard while growing up, came from Disney’s golden era. “The Little Mermaid” changed that in 1989.
“The Little Mermaid” produced some of the best songs any Disney film had featured in years. The duo responsible for such cool songs were Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Their follow-up turned out to be one of the most important and successful films Disney has ever produced, “Beauty and the Beast”. It was the first animated movie to receive an Oscar nomination for best film. Although it would eventually make it to the stage, Beauty and Beast was described at the time as the best Broadway show not playing on the Great White Way. Be Our Guest became an instant Disney classic.
It was interesting to see Disney history in the making as the song became one of the most recognisable tunes in the world. Well, maybe not the world, but at least in the places where the Disney machinery was present, which come to think about, it’s the entire world.
Early 1992 was a good time for me. I was starting the last semester of my master’s program and had managed to secure a three-month job that would pay me enough to produce my final video project. It would also give me a lot of disposable income (in a poor student scale, of course.) One snowy Saturday after I got my first paycheck I went to the Tower Records in Foggy Bottom in D.C. and bought me a few CDs, “Beauty and Beast” was among them.
It was one of the few occasions when I had bought a movie soundtrack before watching the film. I fell in love with Be Our Guest right away; it was such a happy and spirited song that in a way become an anthem for the period of my life I was about to start. I don’t listen to it often, but every time I do it brings back nice memories, and it makes me smile.
Song Title: Be Our Guest – 1991 Genre: Soundtrack Artists: Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach Composer: Alan Menken Lyrics: Howard Ashman Album: Beauty and the Beast (Special Edition Soundtrack)
Favourite Lyrics: It’s a guest! It’s a guest! / Sakes alive, well I’ll be blessed! / Wine’s been poured and thank the Lord / I’ve had the napkins freshly pressed.
Runners Up: One Less Bell to Answer / A House Is Not a Home • Join The Circus • Wind Beneath My Wings • The Glory of Love
14 THURSDAY 10 JULY 2014
There Will Never Ever Be Another You – Chet Baker
Remember when only a few days ago I picked “Maybe” from Annie? There Will Never Ever Be Another You is a song that also looks back at the times when I was working on my Psychology degree thesis when I was 22. Remember? An episodic video series to increase creativity in children?
Back in 1987, I can’t remember why I never gave anyone involved in the project copies of the series. In 2003, I decided to make up for it and compiled a 90-minute blooper and outtakes reel and gave few copies away (I had kept all the original VHS tapes used to record the series.) I decided against giving the entire show because I thought it’d be more fun for the actors to see themselves out of character, particularly for the now grown up children. Besides, bloopers are always funny even if you don’t know the context.
As I was putting together the reel, I felt grateful to all the people who helped me, my parents, siblings, aunts, cousins, and friends, but especially the actors. Those five children and three young people who put their lives on hold for a month and a half to see my project through, without expecting anything in return.
Although I know the song is about a lover who may leave soon, I used There Will Never Ever Be Another You as backdrop to a little montage I included at the end of the compile. I knew that no matter what other projects I would be doing in the future, I was sure I’d never have an equal unconditional support like the one those eight people offered me.
Song Title: There Will Never Ever Be Another You – 1942 Genre: Soundtrack Artist: Chet Baker Composer: Harry Warren Lyrics: Mack Gordon Album: The Best Of Chet Baker Sings
Favourite Lyrics: Yes, I may dream a million dreams / But how can they come true, / If there will never ever be another you.
Runners Up: Catherine’s Lullaby • Ligia Elena • Plastico • I’ll Get By • God Bless the Child